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Apple updates online store to match retail stores

A slight tweak to the way Apple is selling iPads suggests it's rolling out a purchasing system similar to what it offers in its retail stores.

Apple this morning briefly took down its online store to make changes to the way customers buy its devices, including a new selection process that's similar to what can be found in its retail stores.

The first change is for customers wanting to purchase iPads, a process Apple has streamlined into a new selector tool that splits up models by color, capacity, and whether there's built-in 3G networking. It's nearly identical to what Apple introduced in its retail stores with its Smart Sign program in March, the one that replaced paper signage with iPads. That system lets you build out your iPad or iPhone to the color and capacity of your choice, and see how much it will all cost.

iPad 2 buying process.

As MacRumors notes, the change on the iPad page is coupled with a subtle change in the ship times for each model. Apple's longstanding tradition of telling customers that an item would ship "within 24 hours" has been replaced with an "in stock" note below each iPad.

The stock availability change is of special interest given a temporary increase in shipping times yesterday that gave most of Apple's products three to five day wait times, with some pushing higher. Those estimates returned to previous levels later in the day, but it caused a stir.

It's unclear if other products will get the same sale page treatment as what's been doled out to the iPad. That product in particular was in need of a more consolidated buying page since Apple offers 18 different variations of it, accounting for color, capacity, and carrier options. A runner-up in that department is the iPod Nano, which has 14 different models. Apple has historically refreshed its iPod lineup around this time each year, meaning those pages could be the next in line for the remodel when that happens.